Every Thanksgiving since 1970, the United American Indians of New England have staged what they call the National Day of Mourning, where Native Americans from New England and around the country gather to tell their side of the Thanksgiving story.

The event is held in Plymouth, and demonstrators meet at Cole’s Hill at the statue of the Sachem Massasoit, who befriended the Pilgrims and attended the first Harvest Feast in 1621, which is the inspiration for our modern-day Thanksgiving. They then march down to Plymouth Rock, where they continue their demonstration. Besides listing a litany of offenses perpetrated by the colonists, including the taking of their land and destruction of their culture, the indigenous Americans say they seek understanding and reconciliation.

As Matowee Monroe — co-leader of the United American Indians of New England — explains, the National Day of Mourning began when Native American leader Wamsutta Frank James of Cape Cod was asked to prepare a speech for an event in Plymouth in 1970, marking the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims. It was a formal affair to be attended by many local, state and federal officials.

But after reading what James and his wife had written, those in charge said the speech was too inflammatory and inappropriate for the occasion. They suggested writing a speech themselves for him to read. James refused, and tribal members, in response, decided to hold their own event in Plymouth and speak their minds.

The National Day of Mourning in Plymouth continues to this day.